What happens when you quit social media? And more importantly, what happens to your business, especially if you’re a social media coach, like I am?
In late May, I decided to go on a 60-day social media sabbatical. Contrary to what most people thought, this wasn’t a detox and I wasn’t upset or frustrated with social media. It was a more practical decision and that was to determine whether my business could survive or even thrive without social media.
More specifically, I had over 1800 pieces of content posted on Instagram at this time and it was my sincere intention to move most of it to a platform that I actually owned (such as my website).
That’s what I posted on my Instagram/LinkedIn and Facebook Business Pages on May 27th, 2021: Taking a 60-day Break from Social Media
So, at the end of 2 months, what did I discover? This post breaks it down into the different lessons learnt from the sabbatical.
The Joy of Being Offline
Much has been said, by people who’ve done this before. And I’ve experienced it myself when I’ve taken shorter breaks from these spaces. But this time, as a business owner, I had to ask myself, what was it that I was truly gaining from this experiment?
Most of all – it was a sense of joy and peace.
I wasn’t worried or stressed about missing out on messages and updates, because the people who needed to get in touch with me found a way to do so, whether they were clients or people who’d connected with my work.
I was curious to learn how possible it would be to continue nurturing and building deeper connections off social media. What would it be like to truly connect with people where they are? Without the pressure of ‘seen’ messages and waiting with patience while they get back to me? This is something I wanted to dive back into. That’s why I have truly and deeply enjoyed my email list in this time.
Since I wasn’t on social media, I wasn’t checking messages/ comments at different times throughout the day. Everyone was either emailing me or sending me a text message (if they knew me personally), so that saved me so much time, on a daily basis. I never had an overflowing inbox at the end of the day, because I made time to connect with clients and readers only through email. Honestly, this might be the singular reason for me to completely leave social media- the lack of messages and tags. On a day-to-day basis, those tags can really add up and splinter your attention.
I’d love for people to continue to find me via my website and my newsletter- the two places I consciously own in terms of my content. While I love my podcast and my YouTube channel, I don’t rely on them heavily for much of anything, especially in business.
Stepping away from the Validation
Even without realizing it, I had fallen into the trap of external validation when it came to my content on social media. I never really did worry about followers, but the concept of likes, comments, and shares was a tiny dose of validation that told me my work resonated with people. A part of me would always wonder what people were thinking of my work. Stepping away from creation in the public eye put the focus back where it belonged- on the joy of creation for its own sake.
What kind of content do you consume and how does it impact how you spend time on a platform? One thing I learnt about myself was that I’m a bit of an information junkie, in the written format. It’s probably why I also write long blog posts or longer Instagram captions because I tend to consume content in similar formats.
But, the flip side to that habit is that text-based social media content is also what kept me hooked and coming back for more. It’s why I felt so much relief when I left Twitter. The volume of text-based content (although shorter and more concise) was causing me anxiety. It’s also the platform like I’ve said earlier, where we tend to be more emotional than intentional. It’s a reflex almost to post content that is impulsive and not thought out. And the platform rewards it too.
The Power of Intention
The thing that kept appearing for me in different forms through the sabbatical was the power of intention. So very often, we act upon instinct and reaction instead of patience and intuition. The sabbatical gave me ample time to reflect on my space in the social media landscape and this is how it will shape my presence, going forward.
I don’t need multiple active social media channels- just one- and for now I am going to stick with Instagram, since that is where I connect directly with my audience.
Instagram: In the principle of intentionality that I advocate, I’ll be cutting down on Instagram use to just twice or thrice a week. This is also a way for me to respect the time and attention of those who follow me on this platform. I’d love for them to only see valuable content but not feel compelled to be constantly on the platform in order to stay updated with my content.
Facebook Business Page and Group: My Facebook Business page will exist for the foreseeable future since it’s also linked to my IG business account. I will be keeping it to share some key announcements and maybe some useful resources every now and then with my Facebook audience.
My Facebook group (the one I run) will all be archived. All members will be notified of this change. For now, I am not planning to resume the community elsewhere. Clients, readers and subscribers are welcome to follow me on Instagram or connect with me via email, with any questions or doubts.
Personal Facebook: I’ve decided to archive/delete all of my personal Facebook posts and will not be using my Facebook personal profile anymore. Since most of it was personal updates I think I can live with that. By January 2022, I will be deactivating and subsequently deleting my Facebook profile. The one reason I am waiting till the end of the year is to finish out my commitment to 3 membership groups that are present only on Facebook.
Ads: I won’t be running any ads on Facebook or Instagram in the near future. This is a personal choice knowing what I know now about the various undercurrents when it comes to the social media landscape. If people find me, my work and my content it’s because they want to find me and they get joy in the process. I’m hoping to rely on my organic reach plus word of mouth referrals to get my work seen by my audience. A huge inspiration for this was Leo Babauta, by the way.
We’ll see how this plays out, as the next six months unfold.
LinkedIn shall continue to exist for networking purposes. I am done with actively posting on the platform. Like my Facebook Business page, I will use it for periodic announcements and to share useful resources for my audience.
YouTube: I don’t use YouTube as a social media platform nor do I spend hours going down the rabbit hole of videos. That’s because for me, personally, video has far lesser appeal over text and audio. I will continue to use YouTube as a way to share/reshare my content and optimize it for more search terms.
Pinterest: Again, I don’t use this one as a social media platform either. I don’t have the app on my phone, nor do I spend any time on it. As a creator though I use the technical/analytical side of it far more.
In about a year from now, I’d like to move away from all distraction-based social media if I find that my business can truly exist as well as thrive outside of these spaces.
I’m also going to admit a larger, possibly more important lesson and that is the idea of withdrawal symptoms surrounding social media. Not being online or knowing if people are wondering about you/your whereabouts can be quite difficult at first. But the more we stay with these feelings of discomfort, the more open we become to the fact that discomfort is good. Boredom is good. Because it is in these spaces that our true being thrives. It’s an awakening of our creativity and an awareness regarding social media- especially behaviour online, primarily ours.
Let’s say you’re a member of a Facebook group or any community for that matter; perhaps you have an engaged audience on Instagram. Now each time you approach social media and visit these groups/ platforms, pause and take a deep breath.
Process how you are feeling in the moment. Are you anxious? Are you comfortable with the work you’ve done today/ this week/this month?
It can feel very challenging to see other people talking about their progress, growth and updates and feel like you’re not moving fast enough on your journey. Now, that’s a good exercise to do. Pause and step back.
Give yourself just 5 minutes to see a website and ask why you are going online. Learning to ignore the validation on other people’s posts – likes/comments/hearts/claps- is important. When you don’t do that we fall into the trap of comparison and sometimes envy.
One of the things I’ve learnt from this sabbatical is that I can actually go for 8 weeks (and counting) without posting a daily/weekly update on my social media channels. There’s no compulsion for me to share my take on a trending topic and if there IS a hot-button topic in the news, I usually end up discussing it with a close family member or a dear friend in a personal conversation.
This reminds me that deep, empathetic connections are born out of intentional sharing. The other thing I’ve observed, even in communities that are very encouraging and expansive, is the slight feeling of comparison that emerges when we spend too much time online. Of course people are being supportive and encouraging. At the same time, there’s a sense of ‘maybe I should do a bit more, so I can reach the other person’s level’. Do you know what I mean?
On that note, I’d like to clarify that I don’t think this is THE solution for everyone when it comes to social media. And that’s why each person has to take a break and work out what matters for themselves.
For example, when I deleted my Twitter account in March this year, I did it after a couple of months of reflection and soul searching. These 8 weeks have reinforced my belief that it’s time for me to exit my personal Facebook profile and limit my LinkedIn page to important announcements only.
On that note, I’ve also been diving into the ethics of social media marketing and how viable it is for us as digital business owners. Is it wrong? Is it acceptable? This article is a fascinating take.
Similarly, another question worth asking yourself is what kind of emotional triggers are affecting your state of mind when it comes to social media?
For example, very surprisingly, text-based updates on Twitter used to make me anxious. That why dis-engaging from that platform helped a great deal. Conversely, I am not impacted at all by images and video in any way, which is why Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube are in no way addictive or triggering for me. Very strange, but that’s the way it is.
Another idea that struck me was the level of organic engagement and if that impacted the way I viewed a particular platform. On Twitter it had dropped significantly and on Facebook, it was mostly my personal updates that people resonated with. However, a part of me truly wanted people to connect with my business, not my photos and my personal life.
How the Sabbatical Impacted My Business
I can’t believe how much content I actually created in my two months away from social media. Not just that, the amount of time it freed up for me to do other things outside of a social media platform was phenomenal!
Between client sessions, group coaching and affiliate income, both June and July were pretty comfortable on the financial front. It also gave me the time and bandwidth to look at the gaps in my business strategy and figure out a better framework for the whole process. I couldn’t have done this if I had been active on social media.
Gave up some of my monthly business expenses to keep business outflow low/ to a minimum. This includes pausing my payment for Canva Pro/ Medium/ Streamyard/Zoom. Instead, I have switched to using the free versions of all of the above. Currently, I am only paying for Gumroad, Acuity Scheduling and Mailerlite.
I then worked on revamping a number of pages on my website, which I never ‘had time for’ in the past. These included my home page, my coaching details, client testimonials and incorporating a space for case studies with my clients. I also started a new feature of adding free Monthly Q and A calls for all my course students.
Started working on outreach and collab options outside of social media; this took a bit of effort to systemize and set up, but the business framework I came up with infused so much more intention into my calendar. I now have a much better idea of how to spend my 20 hours each week, devoted to my business.
Did away with the paid discovery call and enabled the Free clarity call for new clients- service above profit is the motive that’s driving me these days. The really interesting thing though? My conversions to engaged and paying clients are much better after doing this.
On Day 31/32, when I sent out my refreshed and revamped workshop newsletter, there was a sense of quiet and liberation that seemed to flow into my writing. I was no longer stressed, harassed or thinking about twenty different things. I was only focusing on the joy that is connecting with my readers and fellow business owners. And what wonderful people they are, to be sure.
In one day alone, I received such kind, heartfelt mails from no less than 6 different people and every one of those reinforced the power of connection over numbers.
About 5 weeks into the sabbatical, I also decided to turn off advertising on my website and reached out to my ad network to request the same. As of July 30, 2021, this blog is an ad-free zone 🙂
How Time Opened Up for Other Pursuits
A heightened sense of awareness now that I wasn’t checking social media everyday was the wisdom that the world is waiting to share its treasures with you, if only you are open to the possibility.
One month into my social media break, I realized how much more time expanded and opened up in my day. I’d always prided myself on the art of balancing things but I’d been missing a key component: Harmony.
Balance isn’t what we should strive for; it’s harmony. And that’s what I managed to discover with respect to time and energy management.
I enjoy cooking. I never thought I’d say this but it’s true now. In the last year and more so in the last few months I lose myself deeply in the art of cooking. I’m a slow cook and it’s not something I am ashamed of anymore. It means I am careful, conscious and losing myself in the cooking process without any rush or hurry. There’s more room for trial and error, more room for experimentation and more room to explore health and wellness from the right perspective. No rush and no hurry. For someone who grew up with one eye on the clock, this has been a massive shift.
In the last 60 days I’ve stepped so far out of my comfort zone when it comes to culinary experimentation. From pizzas in the air fryer to traditional kootu using snake gourd, I’ve given it all a go. And none of this was due to feeling compelled to cook; I enjoyed every moment spent in the kitchen.
It was also a time for me to deeply examine how much processed food we consume, as a rule and how we can consciously step back from that, if we were to invest some time in the kitchen.
Reading has found me again, deeply, passionately and like the arms of an old love. It welcomes me everyday as I find joy between the pages of a book. I’d stayed away from fiction for almost 2 years and now I am back in its embrace.
More importantly, I found joy in deep reading, slow reading and re-reading. I re-read a number of books during this time, a few old favourites and books I had abandoned in the past. The time available gave me ample time to savour the books the way they were meant to be appreciated.
Books I read (or re-read) during these 2 months included the below:
With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Anything you want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier
What I Talk about when I talk about Running by Haruki Murakami
The Joy of Missing Out by Tonya Dalton
The Buddha in Your Mirror by Woody Hoschwender
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
I’ve had the completely wrong approach to fitness and wellness. For so long I’ve looked at it as a way to lose weight.
But the truth is I should have been focusing on something else- overall wellness of body, mind and soul. When I do this, I don’t have to carve out time to work out; I show up on my mat/ for my walk because it’s something my body needs and deserves.
I completed 100 days of daily meditation and also incorporated gentle, regular movement into my day. Of all the things I’ve worked on this year, this may be my proudest achievement 🙂
Alongside this, I increased my daily water intake with gentle reminders on my laptop which would ping every hour to help me get up and move around.
Similarly, sleep became top priority as I learnt to switch off the laptop and phone earlier each night. With my 3 MITs rule in place, I wound up the evening with my 3 most important tasks done each day and didn’t worry about a never-ending to-do list.
An interesting thing happened about 6 weeks into my sabbatical. I developed swelling/edema in my feet which became progressively worse over 5 or 6 days. I was alarmed at this and started frantically googling home remedies to counter the problem.
Strangely enough, I started my cycle at the end of that week and the swelling reduced practically overnight. The three things I had started doing consciously was increasing my water intake, cutting out processed foods and starting the Viparita Karani exercise.
When eating, I paused to ask myself the following:
- Are you hungry or thirsty?
- Is this ravenous hunger or boredom-induced hunger?
- Can you eat a salad/popcorn/handful of nuts instead of chips/biscuits?
I swear I did nothing else. I didn’t reduce portions or eliminate anything else from my diet (Except for white sugar which I gave up 2.5 years ago). Especially towards the end of the sabbatical, I started listening to my body more deeply and consuming food from a space of genuine hunger, eating to a level of satiety instead of boredom or temptation.
A series of tests I had done returned favourable results, for which I am extremely grateful. It’s also a very good reminder that we have just one body and it’s up to us to take good care of it. Nobody else can do it for us.
I journaled for 60 consecutive days! This was my first attempt at a daily journaling habit, which is kind of unusual for me. While I’ve kept a journal off and on over the years, I’ve never actually put it all down on a daily basis. Interestingly, all the time we get by not being on social media allows us to write more and probably think more deeply in the spaces that abound. That means I am not letting someone else’s thoughts take over. I have time to listen to the voice within.
On social media, we’re always listening to other people, watching them live their lives and share updates. Why are we not living our own lives fully, wholly and without validation?
Social media makes us subservient to other people’s needs before our own. Whether we are content creators or consumers, this is true. It’s important to remember that there is a distinction between service and subservience. In the former, we choose to respond to others’ needs once we have finished serving our own. In the latter, we are at others’ beck and call at all times.
A Powerful Shift
In the words of another business owner who actually quit social media back in 2015-
Social Media is Optional; Not Mandatory.-Alexandra Franzen
I’ve noticed a very powerful shift these last two months. Without social media, I am a very different person. No, it’s true! When I was not on social media I found the following things happening far more seamlessly than ever –
- I was more present with my feelings, including boredom
- I consciously experimented more in the kitchen
- I readily worked on some of the harder tasks in my business without distractions
- I read books deeply and without being pulled away by the lure of my phone or my laptop
- I spent more time practising my music
- I could feel my memory improving significantly, without the help of calendar reminders or alarms on my phone
- I stayed happy and content with following the thoughts of a handful of people via their websites and newsletters
- I rarely wondered what people thought of me and since I wasn’t on social media, had no way of knowing if people were talking about me!
- I stopped living the comparison game
- I connected deeply with close friends over calls and text messages
But the most incredible shift of all? It was the distinct awareness that I probably don’t need social media in the long run. Ironic, considering I am a social media coach, but it’s high on my agenda to wean myself completely off social media over the next 12 to 18 months.
The wheels are already in motion. I quit Twitter in April this year; I will be leaving Facebook by the end of 2021 and will be limiting my presence on Instagram to twice or thrice a week.
Simultaneously, I will be working on strengthening my base off social media using my blog, newsletter and podcast. Coupled with collaborations, client outreach and market research, I believe this is both doable and a workable solution by mid to late 2022.
I don’t dislike social media, to be clear; nor do I think that it’s a citadel of evil. I’ve formed some deep, abiding relationships, both personal and professional, through these mediums.
However, after 14 years on Facebook, 10 years on Twitter and 4 years on Instagram, it’s time for me to examine how I want to be spending my time. I’m in my mid-40s which also means that there is an overarching need for me to reflect on how I am investing my energy on a day-to-day basis.
It’s now clear that my business can actually survive without social media and that’s going to be the primary focus of my business, going forward.
If you are considering the possibility of leaving social media or at least use it with more intention, I hope this article has been useful.
Recommended For Further Reading:
Cal Newport: Quit Social Media
Leo Babauta: Walled-in- Life without Facebook
Alexandra Franzen: Why I Don’t Use Social Media Anymore
Alexandra Franzen: 10 Reasons to Quit Social Media
My 60-Day Social Media Sabbatical- A Daily Journal
Michael Harris – I have Forgotten How to Read
Roger Ebert – The Quest for Frisson
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